Stepped up enforcement and public education programmes are on the cards as the Department of Commerce forges ahead with its consumer protection mandate.

Word of this has come from Director, Terry Bascombe, who revealed his department’s 2009 action plan to carry out its enforcement programmes as it responds to the numerous requests for technical assistance.

To achieve this, he said, more staff was needed in order to effectively carry out its programmes. “Hopefully our staff complement will be augmented, not only in terms of numbers, but also in respect of capacity of staff.  The department is now being asked to do a lot of things that are more technical than what a Price Control Division used to do previously.”

Mr. Bascombe who revealed plans to step up the department’s public education outreach programme on consumerism noted: “An informed member of the public is a powerful consumer.  We have to get the word out to Barbadians that there are lots of things that they themselves can do and there are a lot of practices in the market that consumers themselves can influence.”

Underscoring the importance of the department in making recommendations to Government on its cost of living reduction initiatives, Mr. Bascombe disclosed that the basket of goods had been expanded from 30 to 90 items.  It also contains a wider range of product brands and more healthy and nutritional varieties of food.

In the near future, he said, “the department’s plan is to restart its monthly digest of food prices on radio and television, as well as a supplement in the print media.  Without going into specific details, Mr. Bascombe said the digest would be used as a consumers’ guide to finding the best deals on produce.

During the year, the department will also be turning its attention to utility metering and increased scrutiny of betting and gaming machines in the wake of complaints from consumers about unusually high utility bills and some gaming machine establishments.

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